The Big Wide World on a Small-Town Street: The 2017 L.I.F.E Festival

IMG_2123.JPGBy Gabriel Griffith

For the second year, the LaGrange International Friendship Exchange Festival offered much to visitors and locals alike. On Saturday, September 9th, booths representing twenty different nations filled the streets and produced culturally diverse activities ranging from food tasting, to musical and dance performances. It was the perfect environment to travel the globe all in the short distance of one small-town street in LaGrange, Georgia.  As a result, people came together to celebrate their individual cultures.

Among this year’s attendees was LaGrange’s mayor, Jim Thorton.  “LaGrange has many diverse families with many different heritages and customs,” he said. “All the booths you see in the festival represent the diverse culture of those who currently live in LaGrange showing their homeland.”  

Mayor Jim Thornton meets with the Marquis de Lafayette (Carol Cain)

A woman from the Poland stand discussed her pride in her family’s heritage. “My grandfather came to America and has kept our values close through the years.” she said. “And it is good to show others my heritage and that of my grandfather’s.”

Many groups performed on the feature stage, as well. Demonstrations included martial arts and dances with the help of local performing children. The platform was also home to a piñata for attendees to bash and earn sugary rewards.


Music was not the only aspect that commanded the public’s attention. Delicious smells filled the street as the stands featured diverse cuisine from brie on crackers in the French region stand, to sweet chocolate salami in the Italian stand, to the butter tea of the Tibet stand. Public favorites quickly grew as long lines formed for certain cultures.

In addition to the music and food, pottery molding and a photo booth were popular attractions. Each stand featured maps with distinct landmarks for visitors to observe. Some countries brought items from their homeland. For example, the Chinese stand featured children’s books written in Chinese.

“LaGrange has many diverse families with many different heritages and customs.”

-LaGrange Mayor, Jim Thornton

The festival closed at Callaway Auditorium the next day at 8 P.M. with a concert to commemorate first responders. Despite the threat of cancellation due to the looming storms of Hurricane Irma, Troup county police authorities ensured the concert could continue without danger to the public.

The second-annual LaGrange International Friendship Exchange Festival significantly demonstrated diverse cultures as each booth held something singular to demonstrate each country’s customs and ways of life. The LaGrange International Festival brought a big world onto one street for a global and enriching experience.


Gabriel Griffith (’21) is a first-year student with an interest in journalism and writing.  This article was composed and edited in Dr. Justin Thurman’s First-Year Composition and Journalism course.

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